School board nears district bond issue decision for upcoming ballot

Board members relatively optimistic

[  By Kendra Walker  ]

On Monday, July 18, the Gunnison Watershed School District board of directors reviewed and discussed the details of the potential bond issue for the November ballot that would help fund building improvements across the district. The total project cost is $101,000,274, for an approximate $89 million bond issue, and the school board will decide on August 8 whether to take the project to voters this year.

The project’s top priorities are to improve safety and security of all building entrances, address capacity and overcrowding issues with expanded facilities, and improved building maintenance for long-term savings and sustainability.

The $101 million takes into account the project’s estimated costs from 2021, with 20% added in for inflation this year. At current rates if passed, the bond would increase taxes by approximately $200 annually per $500,000 in residential value. Superintendent Dr. Leslie Nichols explained that there may be more adjustments between now and the August 8 meeting when the board votes.

Board president Tyler Martineau noted that the current project scope and cost is pretty similar to what was presented to the board earlier this year, with two additions: $2 million to improve the intersection at Hwy 135 and Red Lady Ave, and $1 million for a building renovation for the Marble Charter School. 

Hwy 135 intersection

The town of Crested Butte, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the school district have received a cost estimate from civil engineers of $4 million to put a roundabout at the intersection of Hwy 135 and Red Lady Avenue. 

“This intersection is one piece of a larger transportation plan the town is working on,” said Nichols. “If we expand, it will require that intersection be improved to complete the project…the school is an element of that intersection…the town owns that and they’re really happy to have us as collaborators. We talked about it and we will share these costs.”

“The town of Crested Butte has been struggling with issues of that intersection for a long time for reasons other than just the school,” said Martineau. “For the sake of this bond effort, we put in a number of 50% of that $4 million. But we don’t really know what that is going to be, it’s hard to know exactly how that’s going to play out.”

Marble Charter School

Another number in the bond proposal that has increased is with respect to the Marble Charter School. The school has acquired a 3,800-square-foot historic building in Marble. “There is going to be a major need of renovating and upgrading it,” explained Martineau.

Overall takeaways

The board also reviewed the draft ballot language and all agreed that the language should convey and emphasize the district’s need for safety and security improvements, additional space and maintenance improvements.

“This is the only way capital improvements can occur in Colorado schools and most schools, to go into debt and have our community members over time repay the debt. It’s going to be hard to pass this given what’s going on,” said Nichols. It’s going to be tough, it’s a tough climate in which to raise taxes.”

“I think $200 per $500,000 assessed valuation is a reasonable ask,” said board treasurer Dave Taylor. “This is an environmental issue. Our county and our representatives in Crested Butte, Mt. Crested Butte and our county commissioners place a high, high importance on environment. This is one of the most important environments we can control right here in Gunnison County.”

“If this doesn’t pass, what can we do?” asked board member Mandy Roberts. “If it doesn’t pass and these things need to be done.”

“Ultimately, we’ll have to come back to the voters until it passes,” said Martineau.

“We’ll continue to operate our schools and we’ll continue to open…all of that stays as we’re doing it now, which is with a level of frustration, which is of concern,” said Nichols. “We’re not going to quit educating our kids but we’re going to do it at a level that could be better.”

“I am optimistic, I think we can do it,” said board member Anne Brookhart of the bond passing. “It is necessary. I think it’s a good plan, it’s a good ask.”

“I am relatively optimistic and it’s because of the processes that we’ve already been through,” said board member LeeAnn Mick.

“I hope we all as board members can support this moving forward,” said Brookhart.

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